Australians may not be able to get emergency hospital care in a scenario predicted by modeling the current wave of COVID-19 which is ‘frightening’ doctors, sparking a call for people to make ‘choices’ important” for their health.
The looming crisis prompted Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly to bring back the ‘flatten the curve’ message.
See Paul Kelly’s warning in the video player above
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However, unlike at the start of the pandemic, the best doctor has put the onus of avoiding the worst-case scenario on the Australian public, rather than through government lockdowns and mask mandates.
“We can all help that. It doesn’t just depend on governments, but also on individuals who can make these important choices,” he said. Sunriseechoing recent statements by Federal Health Minister Mark Butler that people should “take responsibility” for their health.
“Wear a mask if you are indoors. If you are eligible for treatment, check with your GP now, as this will reduce your risk of serious illness.
“And again, vaccination can protect you individually, as well as the community, so all of those things are really important for everybody to consider.”
According to the modeling reported by The Australian newspaper on Tuesday, there will be more than 5,000 hospitalizations for COVID-19 across the country in the coming months and patients with the virus will occupy one in 10 hospital beds nationwide.
This would see a situation similar to the post-Christmas wave, but this time hospitals are also responding to flu season.
Chris Moy, the vice president of the Australian Medical Association, said medical professionals were preparing for an “overwhelming” time.
“Can I just say, on behalf of the doctors and nurses I work with, the fear index is extremely high,” he said. Sunrise.
“This wave scares us because the strains of the BA.4 and Omicron subvariants are more infectious, cause more reinfections and can also cause more serious illnesses because they can descend into the lungs.
“So we’re really worried about being overwhelmed and in a situation where essentially people with COVID, and also without COVID, are going to have emergency care delayed.”
What worries authorities about Omicron strains is the rate of reinfection.
On Tuesday, NSW became the latest state to reset the reinfection period to four weeks from 12 weeks, meaning recovered COVID-19 patients will have to be tested for the virus after 28 days if they show symptoms.
“The Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants circulate widely in New South Wales. They are more able to evade immunity acquired in a previous infection and re-infection through vaccination is more likely and possible just weeks after a previous infection,” said NSW Health Officer Kerry Chant.
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Infectious disease doctor Paul Griffin said that while the strains provide “less potent and much shorter immunity”, vaccine boosters may provide protection.
“We know a similar thing happens with vaccines – their protection is reduced, maybe it’s a bit shorter,” he told 7NEWS.com.au.
“We can largely restore that with this fourth dose. This is why expanding this eligibility is so important.
“It immediately brings us back to very good levels.
“It will really help reduce infections, but especially serious illnesses.”
Doctors also warn that antiviral treatments, which have become more readily available, are no substitute for vaccination.
Royal Australian College of GPs vice-president Bruce Willett said the two measures were important but should be seen as having separate functions.
“One of the concerns about these antiviral agents is that people may see them as a substitute for vaccination – they are certainly not,” he told Sky News.
“Vaccination remains our first and most important protection against severe COVID.”